THE EARTH TIMES
FEBRUARY 16, 1996
Youngest delegate of the Youth Caucus
Habitat II Prep Com
By Ashali Varma
UNITED NATIONS, New York— She looked very young and a little tired, sitting outside the corridor of Conference Room A, here on Thursday. What was this child doing here amidst harried diplomats and active NGOs? At 14, Tala J. Manassah is the youngest delegate of the Youth Caucus to PrepCom3 and she has a refreshingly simple philosophy to life’s problems: “Instead of complaining about the darkness light a candle.”
I think the first and probably the most important thing at this meeting is the opportunity to interact with people from all over the world,” Tala said. “I feel very fortunate when I think of some people who go through their entire lives without meeting people from different parts of the world.”
Another thing that motivated her is that she has always been interested in the environment and in conservation and “there is a natural connection to these issues at the meetings taking place here,” she said. The most positive part according to Tala is that she has met many people who are here to further the cause. “They are interested in implementing what is happening here and involving the youth as well as policy-makers from all over the world.”
Maureen Nyamongo is one such youth.
She lives in Nairobi in Kenya and said it is thanks to what she calls “the vision of Wally N’ Dow” that youth have been involved in this process.
She spoke about how critical it is for slum dwellers in Nairobi to get subsidized housing. And how different groups can work with the government to provide it.
Unlike some critics of Habitat II, Tala said, “for me success is when we start off with something and end off with much more, “She went on to explain, “For instance as part of our contribution we painted a huge mural at a community center in Harlem. So many volunteers came. When you can get a group of 100 kids from all over to join such an effort, that itself is a measure of success.” Regarding the horror stories that the press play up about kids killing kids with guns, Tala said, “I think if society was to concentrate more on the good things that youth are doing instead of only highlighting the bad things, than it would motivate young people to do better.”
Tala’s parents are from Palestine but they moved to America before Tala was born. She attends the Institute for Collaborative Education where the main objective of the school is that a student is a life long learner, one must keep striving for knowledge.
She belongs to G.R.A.P.E.S., an acronym for Global Reporters, Artists, Producers and Editors, which she joined when she was 12 years old because she loves writing and is currently involved with a book that her organization is producing on how young people can start newspapers of their own. “We are interviewing people from, all over the world, even from countries where there is no freedom of press. The book will be for youth in all countries.”
Talking about her first UN meeting, Tala said, “At first things were less organized and people had a much less defined idea on what they really wanted out of Istanbul. Now they seem to be much clearer about what to expect.”
Tala feels that young people have an insight and are concerned about what is happening to their habitats and to their environments. “I attribute this to the fact that we are not tainted as policy-makers are by society’s standards,” she said. “We don’t have to worry about losing our jobs or getting re-elected. We can be more effective.”